Best-selling author Lisa Nichols
Filled with Gratitude and Humility, Lisa Nichols Serves from Her Abundance to Motivate the Masses
Written by Nikki Jimenez
Best-selling author Lisa Nichols believes that every minute of every day, people have the opportunity to choose to be powerful, to be good, and to choose humility, fearlessness, courage, and greatness. Through her own life’s obstacles, Nichols is living proof that choosing these things does indeed lead to the fulfillment of life’s purpose.
Nichols’ own circumstance as a young woman on governmental assistance to help feed her baby didn’t stop her from embracing God’s calling for her to coauthor Chicken Soup for the African American Soul series; Living Proof: Celebrating the Gifts that came Wrapped in Sandpaper; and to write No Matter What. Using these books and stages all over the world, she freely declares that the two most important days of a person’s life are the day they were born and the day they discover why. Risen talked with Nichols as she recalled the joy and gratitude she feels and the ability to touch the lives of so many people while she herself continues to be a work in progress.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: I think many authors would be happy with a bestseller on the charts, but you’ve had several! What is it about your books that resonate so well with people?
Lisa Nichols: I think that my books give people a sense of hope; something to hope for and to aspire to. My books speak to possibility and the resiliency of the human spirit. Even though we may all know that we have resiliency, or we all know about the human spirit, sometimes the day-to-day grind requires us to be reminded of that. I write about ordinary people making extraordinary decisions and that’s appropriate for anyone. Inspiration is timeless.
Risen Magazine: As a motivational speaker and business coach, you’re continually on stage. How have you used being an African American woman as a platform for speaking?
Lisa Nichols: I’m always mindful of it. I don’t see it as a barrier, but a bridge to be celebrated. There are a lot of men who are not of color on the stage. But when I’m on stage, my color has been a natural highlight. When I’m on stage, I think every woman sees herself up there, and every person of color sees themselves up there. Others see possibility and connection. My natural highlight has worked itself. When I walk in the room, my full lips, curvy hips, and big hair (speak for themselves).
Risen Magazine: Your book, No Matter What, has a lot of personal stories that I’m sure may have been hard to tell. One in particular is about being pregnant and briefly considering abortion. What made you not go through with it?
Lisa Nichols: Having an abortion would have been all about me – me not being able to care for a child. Though limited, I had resources – a small monthly income, a two-bedroom house. But I was so focused on the selfish reasons that were inconveniences for me. I soon realized that those aren’t good reasons. God sacrificed so much for us and here I was blessed to have the opportunity to give life to a child.
I needed to grow up and go through that. Right now, I’m in a season of sending that child off to college. In reflecting, I see that I needed my son Jelani. just as much as he needed me. He gives me life! It’s beautiful when parents realize that their children are not a burden, but believe that this being can help you grow up and shape your character. We just think about 18 years of providing, but then looking at the past 18 years, I see God showing me patience. I am successful because of this child. He is someone who loves me unconditionally. We’ve given each other a safe space to grow. Having a child has given me far more blessings than challenges.
How would you serve and interact with people if every single day, your Father was
going to tell you how you did and give you a spiritual report card?
Risen Magazine: You’ve had your share of amazing blessings and true hardships. What has remained consistent in your outlook on life through those circumstances?
Lisa Nichols: I know that my spirit is not available to be broken. One of the things that I constantly would say is that I always gave myself permission to get knocked down. I stopped getting shocked when [that happened] because I said its okay for me to get knocked down as long as I get back up.
In my life’s circumstances, sometimes I bounced back, and sometimes I wobbled up. And sometimes, I laid there for a minute and prayed to God to help me get back up. I prayed for him to send an angel to help me, but never once did I question if I was going to get back up. Maybe I questioned when, but not if I was going to get back up.
The biggest difference is that for years I have known my divine appointment by God. I knew what I needed to do for this world. I didn’t know how, but I knew that God put me here for a reason. There can be distractions from my assignment, but I always get put back on my assigned purpose because I know it’s bigger than my challenges.
I know that my purpose is bigger than my circumstance. I use that as my rope to pull myself back up. When people lie down and don’t know how to get back up, they lose sight of why they need to get back up. They don’t understand the cost of what it is to stay angry, confused, or to live without forgivingness.
I know there is a reason that air is in my body. If I get stuck in fear, or anger, then my purpose will pay for that. For me, getting back up is non-negotiable. I have been hardheaded, stubborn, stuck, afraid, but I also have remained obedient to my calling.
Risen Magazine: People can connect with God in many different ways- through alone time, in groups, in nature. How do you connect best with God?
Lisa Nichols: I connect with God in different ways. Twenty-six years ago, God spoke into my heart and said, “Everywhere you see me, there I am.” It was the most powerful line because I felt like that Claritin Clear commercial where it’s foggy and then all of a sudden it’s clear and you didn’t even know it was foggy! I didn’t even know that God was everywhere until he said it. I looked everywhere and there I saw him. I saw him in baby’s laughter, a flock of birds, in large bodies of water. I see him when I see Asian, Black, Latino, and White people. I love seeing the cross-cultural boundaries that once divided us, melt away. I see God in so many things and that’s what is so powerful. I see God in so many different things and people and it’s beautiful.
Also, when I look out at large bodies of water, that’s when I see God. As big as this body of water may be, so vast and powerful, I know that my God is there and he can give me a drop of water.
Risen Magazine: We are called to surrender our lives to God, and for many, that concept can be very difficult to understand or even know what that looks like. What does surrendering look like to you?
Lisa Nichols: When I surrender to God, I get on my face. I lay flat on the floor because I don’t want any separation between me and the floor. To me, that’s my complete surrender. Only one person has ever seen me in this position, as I don’t do it publically. But when I do lie on my face, I cry, and cry tears of gratitude and ask God to use me.
That pose is my place of next level surrender. That’s when I feel resistance to my next level of assignment. I got on my face for Chicken Soup for the African American Soul series. I got on my face when I was asked to tell my story on Oprah. I got on my face when God took me to South Africa to talk to Blacks and Whites as they spoke to each other for the first time since apartheid. I get on my face when something big is around the corner and who I’ve known myself to be, isn’t enough.
Risen Magazine: You often say that you love to dance until your knees hurt and laugh until your belly hurts, yet you still work so hard with your normal day consumed with seven hours or more of straight meetings. How do you do that?
Lisa Nichols: I do all that and I still party! It’s important to celebrate and realize that we deserve to be happy. Be celebrated and celebrate each other. God didn’t ask us to sacrifice. A lot of people may mistake suffering as sacrifice. Yes God says he wants us to sacrifice, serve and be in service and obedient, but God also says to be joyful.
God isn’t an “either-or” God. He said, “Serve me and be joyful – make a joyful noise unto the world!” This helps me be in service. I’m filling my tank up so I can serve more!
I realized that suffering is optional. I didn’t have to suffer, but could have enjoyed my journey. A practice that I’ve done over 15 years is to ask God, “How did I do?” I want to hear “job well done” every day of my life before I go to bed.
I ask, “God, how was I today as your child?” And trust me, God tells me! My spirit checks me on it with conviction, forgiveness, and peace of mind. I tell God, “Tomorrow I will be a better version of your child.” Every day I’m looking for the same answer… “job well down, my child.” I want to hear that every single day. I don’t want to waste 50 years and then ask God that question.
How would you be different if every day you got an integrity report card? What words would you say? How would you serve and interact with people if every single day, your Father was going to tell you how you did and give you a spiritual report card?
Exclusive interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Spring 2013
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